Making a stem cell breakthrough, Aussie scientists have produced the country's first human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell line - basically a cell that acts like an embryonic stem cell but instead was made from an adult skin cell.
The new technique by a Victorian and NSW team of researchers, could help in the understanding of crippling illnesses such as Parkinson's Disease, without raising any ethical problems regarding the use of stem cells taken from human embryos.
According to Dr Paul Verma, Program Leader for Stem Cell Biology at the Monash Institute of Medical Research, Australian institutes had to earlier import iPS stem cell lines from the United States or Japan.
"Until now, in Australia we have relied on people to give us (iPS) cell lines to do any work ... we were at the mercy of whoever would give us cell lines," News.com.au quoted Verma as saying.
He added: "This definitely gives us a way to produce a lot of cell lines ... and if you can get away from the ethics of it then why not?"
In future, researchers in Australia hope to create iPS cells from an adult with Type 1 diabetes, and expect that the results would provide new insights into how the illness progresses.
The scientists hope that a similar approach may even point to possible new treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, cancers, heart disease and spinal cord injury.
Verma said: "If you take cells from a patient with Parkinson's and then you induce them to form iPS cells ... in the lab you can differentiate them to form the nerves that get degenerated in the patient.
"So you can see where the problems arise, and then you can go in and see whether you can treat to prevent that. It's a really powerful tool."
The project will also go on to do comparative work to assess the different stem cell processes - embryonic, iPS and a third called somatic cell nuclear transfer.